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Meadors v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

March 19, 2019

JAMES H. MEADORS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County Honorable Victor J. Melenbrink

          KURT S. ODENWALD, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Introduction

         James Meadors ("Meadors") appeals the motion court's judgment denying his Rule 24.035[1] motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. Meadors argues that the motion court clearly erred in finding that he waived his right to a speedy trial when he pleaded guilty to forgery. By pleading guilty, Meadors waived any claim that plea counsel was ineffective for failing to move to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial. Accordingly, our review is limited to the voluntariness of Meadors's plea. Because the record plainly refutes that Meadors's plea was either involuntary or unknowing, or that Meadors's motion contained the required averment of prejudice, the motion court did not clearly err in denying Meadors's motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the motion court.

         Factual and Procedural History

         The State arrested Meadors in August 2011, following a string of forgeries and stealing offenses committed in the City of St. Louis, St. Charles County, and Jefferson County. Although the subject of this appeal addresses only Meadors's sentence on his Jefferson County forgery offense, to fully address Meadors's post-conviction motion, we review his post-arrest timeline with respect to all three jurisdictions. On charges of forgery and stealing filed in the City of St. Louis, Meadors was convicted following trial in February 2013 and sentenced to a term of incarceration with the Missouri Department of Corrections ("DOC"). On the charges of passing bad checks and stealing filed in St. Charles County, Meadors pleaded guilty in June 2014 and also was sentenced to a term of incarceration with the DOC. During the pendency of his criminal proceedings in the City of St. Louis and St. Charles County, Meadors was never in the custody of Jefferson County, nor did Jefferson County issue any writ of detainer to obtain custody of him.

         The State filed its complaint alleging a forgery charge against Meadors in Jefferson County on November 11, 2012, and issued an arrest warrant on December 5, 2012.

         In July 2013, while in the custody of the DOC on the City of St. Louis and St. Charles offenses, Meadors wrote a letter to the Jefferson County circuit court asking for information about the pending forgery charge in that court. In his letter to the court, Meadors wrote that he "would like to dispose of the charges against him if possible." At this time, no information or indictment had been returned formally charging Meadors with any crime in Jefferson County.

         The State executed the warrant on the Jefferson County forgery charge in March 2015. Meadors then was brought from the DOC to Jefferson County by writ, and was appointed a public defender. The State filed the information on the forgery charge on January 25, 2016, and amended the information on January 27, 2016. Eighty-four days later, on April 20, 2016, Meadors pleaded guilty to forgery.

         At the plea hearing, the State outlined its evidence against Meadors: on June 25, 2011, Meadors had used a forged check in the amount of $20, 697 to defraud Taylor's Boutique Limited in order to buy a vehicle. Meadors registered the vehicle and obtained a title loan to acquire cash, using the vehicle as collateral. At the hearing, Meadors admitted to having forged the check. The State then presented Meadors with a list of his prior convictions-including the City of St. Louis and St. Charles County offenses of forgery, passing bad checks, and stealing- and Meadors attested to its accuracy. Meadors acknowledged that he understood that the range of punishment for the Jefferson County forgery charge was seven to fifteen years with the DOC.

         The plea court asked Meadors a series of questions ensuring that Meadors understood the consequences of his guilty plea. Meadors stated that he fully understood the nature of his guilty plea. Meadors acknowledged that by pleading guilty he was giving up his right to a speedy trial. Meadors confirmed that he had the opportunity to speak to plea counsel, and that plea counsel answered all of his questions about the guilty plea. The plea court accepted Meadors's guilty plea, finding that Meadors made the guilty plea voluntarily, intelligently, knowingly, and with a full understanding of the nature and consequences of pleading guilty.

         The plea court subsequently conducted a sentencing hearing. The sentencing court inquired into whether Meadors was content with his plea counsel. Meadors indicated that he was satisfied with plea counsel and plea counsel's effectiveness. The sentencing court sentenced Meadors as a prior and persistent offender to eight years in prison pursuant to the State's recommendation.

         Meadors later filed for post-conviction relief under Rule 24.035, claiming that plea counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to dismiss his forgery charge for lack of a speedy trial prior to his decision to plead guilty, and he was thereby prejudiced. The motion court denied Meadors's Rule 24.035 motion without an evidentiary hearing, finding that Meadors's plea was voluntary and that Meadors understood both what he was doing and the consequences of his plea. The motion court further found that Meadors waived any claim regarding his right to a speedy trial when he pleaded guilty. The motion court additionally found that Meadors failed to show prejudice. Meadors now appeals.

         Point on Appeal

         In his sole point on appeal, Meadors maintains that the motion court clearly erred in denying his Rule 24.035 motion without an evidentiary hearing because his plea counsel was ineffective for failing to move to dismiss the Jefferson County forgery charge based on Meadors's right to a speedy trial. Meadors contends he was prejudiced because had plea counsel filed ...


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